Car Seats

Car seats are probably one of the most confusing parts of parenthood. Nine out of every ten safety seats in use in Virginia have been installed incorrectly.

Remember, your child's safety begins with you. Set a good example by making sure that you buckle up on every ride. Studies have shown that children are more likely to become lifelong seat belt users when their parents are lifelong seat belt users.

The Virginia Highway Safety Office wants to make sure that all children in Virginia are riding safely in the car. Read on for tips and assistance with transporting your children safely.

Car Seat Tips


  • Everybody needs a child safety seat, booster seat, or seat belt. This means one seat belt for each safety seat or person.
  • Keep in mind that individuals not buckled up can be thrown from the car or around inside the car and seriously injure themselves or others.
  • Never hold a child on your lap or allow anyone to ride in the cargo area of a station wagon, van or pickup.
  • Make sure that the safety seat fits the child, the vehicle, any special needs of the child and that will be used correctly every time.
  • Check safety seat labels for weight and height limitations. This will assist in picking the safety seat that is right for the child.
  • Each child safety seat needs a safety belt or LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) to hold it in place.
  • Check the safety seat instructions and the vehicle owner's manual for basic instructions.
  • The child safety seat must be held tightly against the vehicle seat back. If the safety seat slides around on the vehicle seat, the child may not be protected by the safety seat.
  • How "tight" is tight? There should be no more than one inch of side to side or forward movement of the safety seat after installation.
  • Use the correct slots on the safety seat for your child. At or slightly below the rear facing infant's shoulders, at or slightly above the forward facing toddler's shoulders.
  • Harness straps should be on the child's shoulders-not arms. Keep the straps flat on the child's shoulders and snug enough to keep the child from moving forward.
  • Place the harness retainer clip at armpit level on the child.
  • When a child is between the ages of 4 and 8 years of age and over 40 pounds, a belt positioning booster should be used. This forward facing seat requires the use of a lap/shoulder belt and "boosts" the child to better fit the vehicle seat belt system.
  • To be able to fit in an adult seat belt the child must: be tall enough to sit without slouching, keep his/her back against the vehicle seat back, keep his/her knees completely bent over the edge of the seat, keep his/her feet flat on the floor, and be able to stay comfortably seated this way. Further, the lap belt must fit low and tight across the upper thighs, and the shoulder belt should rest over the center of the shoulder through the center of the chest.
  • Never put the shoulder belt under the child's arm or behind the child's back. This can cause serious internal injuries in a crash. If the seat belt does not fit properly, the child should use a belt positioning booster.